One of the key problems with the Red Sox at the end of the 2011 season and throughout the 2012 season was a bad clubhouse. Rumors surfaced after the 2011 season about the trio of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey departed in the middle of games to eat fried chicken and drink beer, as well as a number of dysfunctional activities. Things didn’t get better when they hired Bobby Valentine for the 2012 season, who basically ran Kevin Youkilis out of town and grew out of favor with much of the time. Starting in the end of last season, particularly August, the Red Sox have made a concerted effort to get a good clubhouse and make themselves likable like they were in 2003-2008.
First there was the gigantic trade with the Dodgers, dubbed the “Punto Trade” by many, which along with clearing up massive amounts of payroll rid the Red Sox of bad clubhouse presences. Josh Beckett was gone in the deal, a man who was famously unhappy with Valentine, as well as Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto– none of whom appeared to be terrible clubhouse presences, but none great (except Crawford). That month, they also got rid of Kelly Shoppach, who allegedly sent a text message from Adrian Gonzalez’s cellphone to ownership about the firing of Valentine.
With numerous holes in their roster entering the offseason, they’ve chosen a path that I like quite a bit. They’ve made short term commitments to solid players who are (generally) good clubhouse presences. Of the eight major league signings they’ve made, five (Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes, David Ortiz, David Ross, and Shane Victorino) are renowned as good presences and the other three (Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew, and Mike Napoli) I’ve heard nothing negative about.
With the AL East as weak as it’s been in years, the Red Sox should contend for a playoff berth in 2013. However, it won’t be with a soul-less, quiet team. The Red Sox should have excellent team chemistry, even with bringing huge amounts of change to the picture. The core of the team– Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz– appear to be genuinely nice guys who I’ve heard nothing negative about and certainly plenty of positive about a few.
With the new guys added on to this bunch, the Red Sox should be in a good position. In case things do get out of hand, John Farrell will be there to restrain them, but being mentored under Terry Francona, he’ll probably have his share of fun. With this active offseason, even if the Red Sox don’t play as well as they should, they should be a fun team to watch.